33 thoughts on “Russia, civilizations & hagia sophia”

  1. Professor, I just read your piece in RT.
    Your piece is okay, well reasoned, I don’t agree with it, obviously, because I don’t like Religion, but whatever.

    What upsets me more is the RT comment section, which, as usual, could be called a toxic cesspool of hate speech, except that would be an insult to toxic cesspool hate speech. Yuck!


      1. I think they try to moderate, sometimes, but it’s hopeless, short of resorting to full-on censorship. Which isn’t a good idea either. So, basically: Problem detected, but no solution available!


    1. The commentary on some English RT articles gives mixed messages about the readership. Some articles have comments with views favorable to fascism and the Third Reich. Some have views favorable to communism. Some have views favorable to segregation and eugenics and hostile to interracial dating. Some have views favorable to the UK in its Brexit efforts and a narrative of Britain being a victim of EU hegemony. Some have views favorable to Trump and the USA. Some have views favorable to a flat earth theory.
      It seems to be a mixed bag, more or less because it doesn’t have the same ‘MSM’ reputation as CNN, NBC, NYT, Fox, WaPo, Guardian, etc.

      As examples:
      * One article on RT that discussed Greta Thunberg had a comment claiming that the wave of Middle Eastern immigrants in Sweden is karma for what Sweden did to Russia – centuries ago – and that France and Germany are next in line for similar invasions. I dunno where he/she is coming from, but the problem is, by his/her logic, modern generations of Swedes, French and Germans will be punished for events during which they weren’t even born (the perpetrators in the first two cases have long since passed away). I also dunno if said commentator is aware that socialist East Germany (GDR) was once a thing and that Königsberg was ceded to Russia.

      * Before Trump was elected, RT ran an article discussing the majority of the German population believing global warming is real. Much of the commentary showed dismay at the news, with one reader wishing that Trump be elected so he can annex Canada. Views on global warming/climate change is one thing; wishing for the USA to invade another country for holding the wrong opinion is another.

      * Another article discussed the controversy of a Brexit campaign that claims that Britain “didn’t win two world wars to be ruled by a Kraut” and that such rhetoric is “xenophobic”. Problem is, not only did Britain play a role in starting these world wars, but Russia was the one who did the hard work during the second one. Rumor has it that the first one was even started by Britain in order to prevent an economic alliance between Germany and Russia (an idea proposed by Bismarck, if what I gather from commentary on Vineyard of the Saker is correct).

      * Frankly, “surrender monkey” jokes and the use of ‘Frog’ as a pejorative for French people were not the first things I expected from comments on RT.

      * Nor did I expect comments that advocated for the genocide of whole countries (e.g. Japan) out of spite. I could’ve sworn RT’s comments section had rules* against incitement and/or promotion of violence.

      As I do not speak Russian, I do not know about the Russian-language RT and the integrity thereof. What I do remember is that the English RT had articles that did not exist in the Russian RT, so it might be different.
      Regardless of the linguistic background, it is often said that the views of the columnists of a news outlet do not reflect the overall views of the outlet as a whole. Not sure if the same applies to the readers of said outlet.

      *Speaking of rules, from what I can tell, RT actually has comment policies that dictate what a comment can and can’t say (http://rt.com/comment-posting-rules). And yet I have seen such comments stay untouched. I shot them an e-mail asking if comments were moderated, and they said yes. So then, why are there comments that promote genocide?


      1. These are all good questions. Another thing RT America does is give columnar space to vicious right-wing marginals like Wayne Dupree. (Not saying they should ban him, just provide more balance, please.)
        As a result of which RT-America’s coverage of the recent American events is extremely one-sided and could even be called racist (much as that word is over-used).
        Personally, I blame Margarita Simonyan. Either she is asleep at the switch or…
        Well, according to one conspiracy theory, RT is actively trying to incite race war in the U.S., because this would weaken the U.S. geopolitically. Do I believe that? Probably not. More likely it’s just khalatnost among the editors!


      2. joey_n.
        RT Germany may be worse than the English edition. Not all of it, definitively not. … but then … sometimes its simply the framing, the headline vs content. Copying the leader of the universe e.g. the NYT?

        But as late into national or national culture outreach in a changed environment as e.g. Al-Jezeera (1996?) it entered the stage as some type of media national outreach pariah. Which forced it into the dissenting factions?

        Wiki: RT operates as a multilingual service with conventional channels in five languages: the original English-language channel was launched in 2005, the Arabic-language channel in 2007, Spanish in 2009, German in 2014 and French in 2017. RT America (since 2010),[7] RT UK (since 2014) and other regional channels also offer some locally based content.

        Considering Germany, I doubt that Moscow grasps what RT Germany supports. Or for that matter can pay attention to, considering some no-no’s to some of us hold dearly???? … Although there were times it seemed to be quite aware of it up to the upper diplomatic layers. …

        But then, who knows??? Maybe the Yellow Press approach is just too tempting???


      3. @joey_n

        I’ve got another example at the top of my head:

        Back in January 2019, RT ran an article discussing an article in a German media outlet where the author picketed the celebration of the anniversary of a victory in Stalingrad. Many commentators wrote mean things about German people as a whole instead of addressing the elephant in the room – that Germany’s mainstream media is run by Americans. One such commentator bemoaned the fact that Stalin did not genocide the German people post-WWII.
        I’m pretty sure Nietzsche once said that “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.” In other words, tolerance is not a one-way street.
        I also do not see how the viewpoint of a single media outlet, let alone a single journalist, is automatically indicative of the mentality of 80 million civilians.


  2. “For all the talk about ‘Eurasianism’ and Russia’s ‘unique civilization’ the reality is the country is fundamentally European and Christian.”

    Okay, Professor. Serious question time. How do you define “European” and “Christian” as pertaining to the countries? Because this sentence:

    “The word in question is ‘civilizations’, and its use reflects a growing desire to distinguish Russia from the West by claiming some essential difference between the two.”

    implies, that, for you, “Europe” = “The West”. Do you really think it is?

    “Yet, really the decision seems to be one that adherents of civilizational thought ought to endorse.”

    And, once again, I have to say this – you have no religious thinking, Professor, if you ever had it in the first place. “Ecumenism” IS a swear word, after all. Further, you write:

    “The reopening of a religious house of worship is also precisely the type of restoration of ‘traditional’ values that proponents of civilizational theory claim to support.”

    Proclaiming respect for “all traditional values” is a strawman – made mostly by you and you alone. I, for example, can’t blame those who are not rushing to praise and congratulate Afghanistan’s widespread resoration of such traditional custom as bacha-bazis. Apparently, your imaginary “Eurasians” must not only keep mum about their feelings about things like that, but also actually “celebrate the diversity”.

    Uhm, are you sure you are writing about alleged “conservatives”, Professor, or, once again, you have to resort to Aesopian language, what with the creeping anti-free speech diktat in your part of the Free West?

    “All this reveals a striking dissonance between theory and practice. For all their rhetorical support of civilizational theory, Russian spiritual leaders and much of the Russian political class are not always too keen on it when it’s put into practice by others.”

    Where can we find Patriarch Kirill’s, Metropolitan Hilarion’s or Konstantin Kosachev’s previous words that make them 100% your “civilisational conservative” strawmen, instead of who they are?

    “As their responses to the Hagia Sophia decision show, at heart, they regard Islam as a ‘threat’ (in Patriarch Kirill’s words) rather than an equally valid civilizational choice, and at heart, they see themselves as part of a broader Christian, rather than uniquely Russian, civilization.”

    I don’t see it like that – especially in “part of a broader Christian[ity]”. Where is your proof?

    “This suggests that if the political situation were to change and the Western world was to extend a hand to Russia to bring current East-West tensions to an end, this passion might evaporate as quickly as it emerged.”

    Tl;dr – you (yes, you personally, Professor) hope that the West will induce Russia with a few of glass beads, knives and handmirrors in exchange for the complete and utter capitulation, so that you (yes, you personally, Professor) could re-live the best years of your “yoof” during the resurgent Hegemony.

    In short – you want to Make America Great Again 😉


    1. I respectfully disagree when I see situations like GPA’s recent SCF piece, where he distinguishes between “Europe” and “Russia”. The EU isn’t actually synonymous with “Europe”, with Russia being very much of a European and for that matter Eurasian nation.

      As a case in point, in athletic competitions, Russia competes in the European (not Asian) zone.


      1. Who’s GPA, and what’s SCF? (The closest thing I can think of with the latter is the San Francisco Chronicle, unless you’re thinking of something else). Thanks in advance.


      2. I remember a similar conversation at a Moveable Feast Café (Open Thread) at the Vineyard of the Saker over a month ago. One commentator shared this article, which apparently shares Mr. Armstrong’s notion that Russia isn’t European (the original site has since been shut down).
        During the conversation, another commentator, who otherwise believes (agrees?) that part of Russia is European, provided an example where a Russian would say he/she or someone else is traveling to or had just came from Europe, the point being that if he/she were in Europe he/she wouldn’t talk that way.

        Overall I’m not saying I agree or disagree with what you said. I just feel the anecdotes I provided might shed further light on the debate as to whether or not Russia is European, so take them for what they’re worth.


      3. Perhaps educated professionals in larger cities are more ‘European’ (cosmopolitan), while small town folks are more… well, folksy? Let’s say: culturally indigenous.

        And that’s, actually, a universal phenomenon.


      4. The EU will become sooner or later synonymous with Europe, excluding European countries outside of that union.
        It is the usual course of history.


      5. “The EU will become sooner or later synonymous with Europe, excluding European countries outside of that union.”

        So UK is Asiatic now [nod-nod].


    2. And, once again, I have to say this – you have no religious thinking, Professor, if you ever had it in the first place. “Ecumenism” IS a swear word, after all

      Explain, would you?

      Ok, I am otherwise not sure what this is meant to convey? Communicate from one mind to another:
      And, once again, I have to say this – you have no religious thinking, Professor, if you ever had it in the first place.


  3. I just personally don’t like it, when people identify “civilization” with “religion” and then criticize secularism/Enlightenment as something opposed to civilization.
    In my view, it’s exactly the opposite!


    1. This is confusing “Civilization” with “civilizations”. The idea that there is such a thing as Civilization with a capital C, that can be contrasted with barbarism or whatever, is precisely what people who use the discourse of “civilizations” are attacking. In this rhetoric, modern secularism isn’t bad because it’s barbaric; it’s bad because it’s totalizing and uniform.


      1. Secularizing is totalizing and uniform?
        I mean, Science is based on Secularism, no?
        On the idea that facts have to be proved, and that knowledge should be transparent and available to everyone.

        Whereas Religion is based on “secret knowledge” possessed only by elite castes who claim to know something they can’t prove, and you just have to believe them, just because….


      2. Ryan, would you give me another hint/s beyond your short summary:

        Civilization with a capital C, that can be contrasted with barbarism or whatever, is precisely what people who use the discourse of “civilizations” are attacking. In this rhetoric, modern secularism isn’t bad because it’s barbaric; it’s bad because it’s totalizing and uniform.

        Civilization – Culture???


      3. “Secularism” can mean two main things, either personal (a lack of religious belief) or public (the belief that religious organizations (in the more moderate case) or even religious convictions (in the more extreme case) have no place in the public sphere).

        To address one issue, neither kind of secularism has any connection, either historical or logical, with science. There were three great “movements” in the development of scientific methodology, the first in the Hellenistic era, the other two concurrently in Medieval Europe and the Middle East. These three strands were then synthesized in the 17th century Scientific Revolution. All 4 of these movements were explicitly religious in their premises and presuppositions. Hellenistic Platonic philosophy was bound up with Greco-Roman paganism, while the other movements were tied up in Christianity and Islam. Conceptually, there are many strains of broadly nationalistic religion (from the Thomism of Catholic philosophy to the Avicennan schools of Islam to the revised Platonic Christianity of many of the scientific revolutionaries), while there are doggedly anti-rationalistic and anti-scientific schools of irreligion (eg. some of the more extreme branches of critical theory, deconstruction and postmodernism).

        In terms of secularism being “totalizing”, I didn’t mean that this is an intrinsic feature of either personal or public secularism. The relationship is historical. It just happens to be the case that “Western” civilization is (and has been for at least 200 years) the most “universalizing” of modern civilizations, and is increasingly secular. So when people contrast “secularism” to distinct civilizations, it’s not secularism in the abstract, but secularism as a component of universalizing Western culture, that’s at issue.


  4. I just personally don’t like it, when people identify “civilization” with “religion” and then criticize secularism/Enlightenment as something opposed to civilization.In my view, it’s exactly the opposite!

    Do they? “Those” indirectly alluded people?

    I once had this in hindsight curious debate with an American (melting pot vs Canadian multiculturalism supporter). She considered herself a supporter of something she called ‘radical enlightenment’. From that perspective she discovered the source of all evil in the thought of the European Romantics. As you may guess, dominantly the German ones. Who, according to her, paved a straight line to the German Nazis.

    Otherwise, basically, ignoring virtue signalling, evil done in the name of religion and or the use of religion in American politics, how would you define civilization without religion historically?


      1. moon, if your lady friend believed that German Romanticism led directly to …

        Well, strictly she was fighting a lonely fight with English studies scholars in the field too. … That I admittedly found quite interesting to watch.

        Back to our topic here. Lord Byron (British Romantic) died in Missolonghi participating in the Greek War of Independence against the Ottomans.

        Now concerning then vs now: There is the larger Erdo the Neo-Ottoman narrative and in this context quite some time before The Cherryblossom King took over, one of his fiercest supporters on SST (check Paul’s blog role) surely semi-ironically, I hope, suggested taking back Konstantinopel, as we spell it over here.


  5. Perhaps people don’t know the history of it, have never seen a photo of it, and when they hear ‘the Cathedral of St Sofia’, they imagine something like the one with the same name in Kiev, the quintessential orthodox cathedral. And so they feel the thing is being desecrated.

    I didn’t know it was a mosque for 500 years, or what it looks like.

    As for politicians (both secular and religious), well, manufactured outrage is what politicians do. Well, most of them anyway.


    1. Good point, Mao.
      Personally I could care less if that thing in Stambul was a Cathedral or a Mosque.
      And I was damned upset when they rebuilt that gold-plated monstrosity in Moscow, too, which used to be a fine functioning swimming pool.


  6. If we consider Erdogan’s decision as an “imposition” of one culture (islamic) on another (Christianity), similar to the “imposition” that took place in 1453 (Mehmed II also converted Hagia Sophia into a mosque), then the conservstive’s reaction is consistent with their negative reaction as regards to the West’s perceived effort to “impose” its culture on other (including Russian).


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